Day One of the Henry Era

How was Henry Ramos Allup's first day as National Assembly chair? OK. Not great.

Was Henry Ramos Allup’s first day at his new office a success?

Yesterday we saw a man who went from hate-figure to pop-star in a matter of weeks, taking the presidency of the National Assembly for the opposition for the first time in 17 years. But we also saw a somewhat tentative leader whose political rivals walk out on without fear of retribution. What do we take from that?

In a way, #5E was a total success for Henry: he won his spot as Assembly president unopposed; he got to shush the hell out of Pedro Carreño, he got to give his own heartfelt speech, and to do it in company of kin, since chavistas stormed out over technicalities. Oh, how the tables have turned!

But you could also argue that this last point turned Ramos’ first day as Speaker into a failure. Chavismo lasted a mere 42 minutes before kicking the proverbial table and leaving the hemiciclo, mad, baffled and unwilling to play along. Worse, it was just 163 deputies who were sworn in, not all 167 as MUD had vowed.

And it’s this point that matters the most. We’d said that Henry would be the one to keep his cool and deal with the tough task of taming the hooligans.

He was cool alright, but the hooligans are not easy to talk down. In fact, the reason the New Minority stood up and left was, according to them, because of Ramos Allup’s way of proceeding, nothing else.

He didn’t leave the National Assembly unsacthed, as even fellow MUDistas complained about his closing speech. So (whoops, wrong guy.) I find it hard to see this day as a win of any kind for him.

Think about it. Only one of the objectives was fulfilled, and it was the most basic of them all: not getting beaten up and being able to get the new National Assembly sworn in with him at the helm. The rest is nothing other than a maybe at this point.

Can the other four deputies be sworn in? Who’s to say?

Can we sit chavismo still and get them to play ball? Again, who the hell is to say?

Can this apparent decorum -aka, not beating each other into a pulp- persist? No one knows.

It all boils down to what was really worth expecting from today. To expect a total humiliation of chavismo on day one is insane, and not even your most cafetalera of grandmums would’ve thought it plausible.

But that’s not what we wanted. We wanted a win, not a win by forfeit. We wanted 167 deputies sworn in, chavismo sit put and understand that things have changed. Did they change? Partially.

The press is back and doing what it does best, and today they had their win. The sight of an oddly uncomfortable Diosdado and a pissed-off Cilia Flores was a gift from them, not Henry.

Today we saw a good movie, but that was in spite of its star. There were no dazzling performances, just a juicy story. If anyone deserves applauses it’s Americo de Grazia, nobody else.

Other than a couple zingers, we didn’t get what we were hoping for from Henry. He was, in a way, more useful as a foil to chavismo than as a champion to us.

Had it been a win, Cilia Flores wouldn’t be waving a rather large truth in our faces: they got the TSJ’s sentence to stick, and they got it on day one. Then they left, to be received by their followers in a scene that, had it been us starring, we’d have hailed as magnificent.

This wasn’t Ramos Allup’s finest hour. It was cathartic as hell to watch him own chavistas here and there, indeed, but not fine. It was entertaining with a dash of fantasy-fulfillment, but all that did was mask the truth that the first round, as the First Combatant so finely put it, was not his best.